Stevie Parle is one of the terrific people I met during my London sojourn, and one of the few I got to know. He is the owner and chef of Dock Kitchen, hidden quietly along the Grand Union canal at Portobello Dock, in north Kensington. I first met Stevie when he attended my pop-up supper club last April at Clare Ptak's shop, Violet, which we had helped her patch together in Hackney, east London. Stevie has just been given the Observer's Food Monthly award for UK Best Young Chef. For me, no one deserves this award more than Stevie, and I wanted to share a little of his celebration here. Pop to the link and you'll see that he's 25, has a new wife, new child, new restaurant, and a great cookbook, My Kitchen: Real Food from Near and Far,
that's all him.
The book is born from his travels.
Stevie really gets food, and seasonality, and taste, and delight, but mostly he gets where it comes from intellectually and viscerally, its place and the culture. By that I mean, he understands the heart of a dish, or the heart of an idea, and realizes it on the plate. He and I began talking about about cured meats -- a sure way to my heart -- and I gave him some instruction on getting started making salami, pancetta, equipment, and other stuff. He got that, too. He's a smart, sensitive guy.
For most of my time in London I lived in an area called Maida Vale, also known as Little Venice, that sits at the confluence of Regent's Canal and the Grand Union Canal, just behind Paddington Station. The London canals are part of an elaborate network of waterways built in the 18th century for transport of commercial goods. The canals snake all over London, and beyond, and new, imaginative businesses have -- dare i say -- popped up along parts of this charming yet practical web of channels from an earlier time. It's a nice kind of rebirth. More on that in another post.
If you walk or bicycle westward from my flat a couple of miles along the Grand Union, you come Portobello Dock, where Dock Kitchen is located. Of course, there are no signs, just a gate and door bell, but you can see it from where you stand on Kensal Road, on the edge of north London. It's in a very modern building with a glass façade, but it's unassuming despite its drama. It's designed by the well known architect and designer, Tom Dixon, who shares the compound with Dock Kitchen. This is the restaurant at night:
I dined four times at Dock Kitchen in my six months in London, almost by accident, and cooked dinner at our flat for Stevie and his family, and Claire's husband, Damien. (Claire was in Califorina.) Dock Kitchen is closed Sunday, and one weekend he invited us to a little dinner there cooked by Joe Trivelli, one of the chefs at River Café, who started Dock with Stevie when it was a pop-up in its early days. We sat out on the terrace overlooking the canal, and watched a crane stroll about. It weather was nice but not perfect, but who cared? Good food, good wine, nice company, lots of chatter (even me!). Joe put together something right up my alley: grilled rabbit, spicy sausages, and various pork bits. Joe's food is very simple, very Italian, and very delicious. It was a pleasant get together, and my dear friend April Bloomfield was in town, so I got to chat with her about food and restaurants. It was one of two meals I had with her in London (the other was at Polpo, a screaming, hip new place in Soho). Joe started us out with a fritto that included fried fennel flowers, another way straight to my heart. Here's a picture of it
After that satisfying meal, we took the no.18 bus via Harrow Road back to our flat in Maida Vale. No one on that bus speaks english. It's humbling, and heartening. The English are living on history.
Stevie just finished a refurbish end of August, and we tried to do a pop-up at Dock, but the refurb took longer than expected, ran into September, and in the end the timing was off; he had to finish installing his tandoor and I had to return to the US. But I am happy to have met Stevie and expect he will continue to shake up the London scene in his personal, perfect quiet way. Congratulations Stevie!